Less than 2 months after stripping headlines from news tweets, Elon Musk is backtracking.
The billionaire announced Wednesday that in a future update to X (formerly known as Twitter), headlines will once again be displayed on tweets containing links to news articles — albeit in a form different from how they previously looked.
“In an upcoming release, X will overlay title in the upper potion of the image of a URL card,” Musk said in a statement posted Wednesday on the site that has lost more than 50% of its value since he became its owner.
Musk first announced the removal of headlines in August, claiming as his reason at the time that it would “greatly improve the esthetics [sic].” But the larger context was Musk’s increasing hostility to non-right wing media outlets and to rising competitors like Meta’s Threads and Bluesky. Indeed, when the change was finally implemented a month later, Musk admitted the actual goal was to reduce traffic to outside websites and encourage people to post “content in longform” on X/Twitter.
It’s unknown what prompted the Musk to reverse course; he didn’t elaborate in his statement Wednesday. But what is known is that stripping headlines proved to be one of the least-liked changes imposed on the site since Musk took ownership. And instead of posting “content in longform,” users instead have continued to drift away.
At least 13% of its most active users have fled since he was essentially forced to buy the site to avoid being successfully sued a year ago. And while X/Twitter still has the highest percentage of active users who say they primarily get their news there, that percentage has dropped too.
At the same time, there may have been no real downside for media outlets. For example, NPR stopped using Twitter entirely after Musk falsely labeled it “U.S. state-affiliated media” earlier this year. But it only experienced a less than 1% drop in traffic, demonstrating, as journalism watchdog Nieman Reports put it, “what many of us in news have long suspected — that Twitter wasn’t worth the effort, at least in terms of traffic.”